Mere days after the Council of Conservative Citizens launched a boycott of Marvel Comics’ movie ‘Thor’ for casting a black actor as a Norse God, anti-Islam conservatives are taking aim at Batman for recruiting an Algerian Muslim to help fight crime. Though the cases are strikingly similar, there’s one nefarious difference.
Conservative site The Astute Bloggers, which claims to expose the “left-wing agenda,” helped rally their troops against Batman earlier this week, when they mentioned a new story line in which the Dark Knight heads to France and recruits a Muslim man named Nightrunner to join the French outpost of his new Batman, Inc. conglomerate.
“I knew it was only going to get worse at DC Comics… Bruce Wayne recruits an Algerian Muslim living in France, in Clichy-Sous-Bois, where the Muslim riots grew out of in 2005,” writes Avi Green of the “Islamist” character, who’s featured in this month’s ‘Batman Annual’ and ‘Detective Comics Annual.’ “How about that. Bruce Wayne goes to France where he hires not a genuine French boy or girl with a real sense of justice, but rather, an ‘oppressed’ minority.”
Green continues, “One can only wonder if Bruce Wayne will go next to the Gaza Strip and recruit a Muslim who thinks him/herself oppressed… by the Israelis, and even to Sweden, where he’ll recruit a Muslim living in Malmö, which has long had troubles of its own with suburban jihadists.”
Culture war controversies are nothing new in the world of funny books. Publishers were forced to operate under severe restrictions after the rise of the Comics Code Authority in the 1950s. Though not a governmental group, the CCA amassed immense power and pressured publishers into conforming to their draconian regulations, including widespread prohibitions on violence, gore and sexuality.
As social norms loosened, comics eventually became a vehicle for social change, first by tackling drug abuse in ‘Spider-Man’ and then more expansive social issues, including homelessness, rape and homosexuality– a word first allowed in 1989.
While certainly comics made many politically incorrect missteps along the way, many of which are chronicled at the site Comics With Problems, companies have mostly aimed for an inclusive superhero community.
DC’s Batwoman, for example, is now a lesbian, and the Marvel title ‘New Avengers’ features Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, who may soon get her own ABC series, in an interracial relationship– something that would have been unheard of in the medium’s earlier days.
Nightrunner illustrates the natural inclusion of a very real group: Muslims make up about 6% of the population, and an estimated 1.5 million of those people hail from Algeria, a country France occupied for over a century. This characters’ background makes perfect sense, and writer David Hine did well by casting him as part of Batman’s line-up. So why can’t right-wingers accept these social and cultural shifts?
The Nightrunner controversy differs a bit from the Thor scandal seen earlier this week. In the Thor scenario, the Council wasn’t saying black people can’t be heroes, period. They simply don’t want to see Idris Elba in a specific role.
“It’s not enough that Marvel attacks conservatives values, now mythological Gods must be re-invented with black skin,” they said. “It seems that Marvel Studios believes that white people should have nothing that is unique to themselves.”
It’s a discriminatory, myopic view, yes, but not nearly as narrow as the one The Astute Bloggers trumpet. Green and his colleagues assume Muslims can’t be heroic because they’re inherently villainous and out to spread “Islamic supremacism.”
The same thing happened when DC’s Justice League teamed up with a Muslim group called The 99. This breed of conservative finds it simply unfathomable that Muslims would be portrayed as Spider-Man or Superman’s equals. Such a depiction totally contradicts their “Islamist terrorist” stereotype.
To them, there’s only one kind of hero: a hero who looks, acts and thinks like them. If they were astute readers of history, though, they would realize those types of “heroes” so often become the villains.
For those of you interested in seeing Nightrunner in action, he’s featured in ‘Detective Comics Annual,’ which is out now, and next week’s ‘Batman Annual’.